Veterans Day Salute, World War I, and a Librarian Assistant
November 15, 2011
Who’s ready to go into the wild unknown to join me on an adventure? Let’s just take that picture in a little longer...All right, back with me? Good, because I want to let you know that I’m not that much of a dork—well, I may just be, but that's beside the point. In this instance, I had a reason for wearing this gear. It’s all from World War I.
The hat would have been worn by an officer, the pack—though here you can only see the straps—was a standard infantry soldier’s means for carrying weapons and ammo, and the Springfield rifle would have been a standard weapon for American soldiers, also known as Doughboys. My reason for donning this gear was in honor of our recent Veterans Salute Program, which celebrated not only our veteran soldiers, but also our active-duty and reserve-duty service men and women.
Along with having the wonderful experience of talking with these brave souls, there were so many artifacts and vehicles for a history buff would drool over. And to be honest, I almost did except...I didn’t want to leave drool stains all over the place. I still have my dignity. There were displays that spanned time from the periods of World War I, World War II, through the Vietnam War.
One World War I display, from the National World War I Museum here in Kansas City, left a great impression on me that day. I was allowed to hold the artifacts in my hands, and as you can see in that wonderful picture above, I was even allowed to wear equipment that real soldiers had worn. No, they were not replicas but the real objects that had travelled through the slow passage of time to the present day. No longer was this war a distant event in the past, captured and seen through deteriorated film photography. It had become tangible and relatable to my life. I could feel the ridges of the old hand grenade. They were quite worn, as I was holding something that another person held about a century before me. Sadly, to be holding it now tells me it did not work for him. Now I wonder, "What happened to the man that this grenade was issued?" Did he carry the seventy pound pack full of rations, ammo, and trench tools, too? What was his life like? How did he end up in the war? Where did he go afterwards?
These are questions I cannot answer, but they do make me wonder. Being able to hold these heavy, burdensome pieces of equipment and to see their age makes me appreciate our active-duty, reserve, and veteran soldiers that much more. I can’t image what my life would be like without them.
All I can say is that for your service, I am thankful.